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Red Blossom Blog

A Brief History of Longjing Tea

A Brief History of Longjing Tea

Longjing, literally translated as "Dragonwell", is now one of China’s most famous and storied teas. Like other whole leaf styles, the pan-roasted green tea, or something like it, was probably first made during the Ming Dynasty, when powdered teas went out of fashion among members of high society. But it was not until the reign of the Kangxi Emperor, in the later Qing Dynasty, that longjing tea was deemed worthy for imperial tribute and ultimately, international fame.

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What is Gyokuro Tea?

What is Gyokuro Tea?

Gyokuro tea is one of Japan’s most famous styles, prized as the highest grade of sencha, or whole leaf tea. Though not as famous worldwide as the powdered matcha used in traditional Japanese Tea Ceremonies, the reputation and limited supply of gyokuro tea make it one of the most expensive and uncommon varieties from Japan.

In part, the value of gyokuro tea rests in the delicate leaf buds it is made from, just like premium green teas from other regions around the world. The first sprouts picked after winter dormancy are prized all over the world for the complex flavors and natural sweetness that are given time to develop as the plant rests. Gyokuro tea is further defined by the processes used to grow and craft these special leaves, which distinguish it from other green teas made around the world and from lesser grades grown in Japan.

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The Truth About Wild Tea

The Truth About Wild Tea

For tea, just as with other commodities like wine, whiskey, or coffee, the most coveted examples are usually the rarest. The allure of any batch that is difficult to find lies in unique flavor complexities, as well as the ever-present draw of exclusivity. In the same way that wine connoisseurs might search for bottles from a legendary vineyard, tea devotees hunt for the leaves from hard-to-find tea trees.

Teas harvested from wild trees, for example, are highly sought after. Most of the hype surrounds pu-erh teas, grown in Yunnan Province in southern China, where ancient tea trees are thought to have originated in the vast, tropical forest of millennia past. But many teas from all over China are sold as “wild” teas, and as with any widespread label, this term can carry a few different meanings. Here are three different types of tea plants that are commonly called "wild".

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Types of Oolong Tea: Nong Xiang vs. Qing Xiang

Types of Oolong Tea: Nong Xiang vs. Qing Xiang

Throughout the long history of tea in China, crafting methods have evolved and diverged to create the vast array of styles we know today. One such shift has transformed the colors and flavors of oolong teas within the last century, fundamentally changing the world’s definition of what makes a good oolong.

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What is Jin Jun Mei Tea?

What is Jin Jun Mei Tea?

Jin Jun Mei is a unique black tea. It comes from Tongmu Village, whose natural terroir is protected as part of the Wuyishan Nature Reserve. The volume of tea that can be grown here is limited both by the rough terrain, as well as by the area’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tongmu is also the traditional home of smoked Lapsang Souchong black tea, but the production of that older style has now been replaced by the more profitable Jin Jun Mei.

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Is Chinese Tea Farming Fair Trade?

Is Chinese Tea Farming Fair Trade?

Commodity products, including tea, have come under increased scrutiny during the past few decades for the exploitative labor practices often used in production. Understandable consumer concerns have led to the development and success of several fair trade certification programs, which seek to increase equity in international trade by encouraging dialogue and transparency in the sourcing process. These are undeniably noble and worthwhile goals, and the movement has seen great success in improving wages and working conditions for laborers, especially in industries like coffee and cocoa.

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What is Dan Cong Tea?

What is Dan Cong Tea?

In the Phoenix Mountains of northern Guangdong, tea cultivation is a tradition dating back hundreds of years. Unlike other tea-growing areas, tea plants are not pruned into bushes or regularly replanted to increase crop yields. Instead, the plants are allowed to grow into full-sized trees, which are typically not considered mature until they are at least 60 years old. Over time, tea farmers in this area have cultivated a range of local tea plant varieties, using cuttings and grafting to preserve and curate specific fragrances from each plant. As a result of these traditional growing methods, Phoenix oolongs are one of the most intense, flavorful, and varied categories of tea in China.

Learn more about the four types of Oolong tea >>

These oolongs are often called dan cong in Chinese, which references the unique growing methods used. As with many other Chinese tea terms, however, translations are often imperfect. Today, with these teas gaining popularity in the international market, there is plenty of disagreement about what makes a “real” dan cong. Though it may seem like every vendor has a different definition, there are three main ways this name can be interpreted.

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Types of Black Tea: Terroir in China

Types of Black Tea: Terroir in China

As drinkers of wine and coffee may already know, the terroir (or provenance) of any given crop has a major impact on flavor. Borrowed from the world of wine, terroir is a French word, which primarily describes the environmental factors of a region. The components of the soil, the altitude, temperature, and levels of precipitation in the growing region can all influence the flavor of the finished product, whether that is wine grapes, coffee beans, or tea leaves.

Terroir also encompasses regionally-specific growing methods, such as traditional harvest dates or standards of plucking and pruning. In the context of black tea, which is now grown on almost every continent, these variables cover considerable range, and produce a huge variety of unique styles. While worldwide production falls outside the scope of our expertise here at Red Blossom, China’s vast borders include several distinct regions that produce unique black tea styles, and offer a snapshot of the ways in which terroir can influence black tea flavor.

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Seasonal Traditions: A Guide to Tea Harvest Dates

Seasonal Traditions: A Guide to Tea Harvest Dates

The harvest date of a tea is one of the four main components of any tea’s identity, influencing the final flavor profile and often determining the level of quality. In many regions, tea is harvested all year round, but the differences between harvest seasons can be so great as to make a completely different tea. On the other hand, the growing conditions required for many premium teas limit output to just one or two harvests per year.

Regular readers and tea aficionados may know that spring harvested teas are often desirable for their naturally sweet flavors, but not all tea styles prioritize sweetness. Each tea has a unique set of standards for judging quality, and each has a distinct harvest season with ideal conditions for meeting those standards. Here, we’ll offer a quick overview of the teas and characteristics to expect from each harvest season.

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